Extravasation Injuries of the Limbs in Neonates and Children—Development of a Treatment Algorithm

Dtsch Arztebl Int. 2021 Aug 23;118(33-34):547-554. doi: 10.3238/arztebl.m2021.0220.


Background: Children and neonates very often receive intravenous therapy. There is a lack of systematic data on the incidence of extravasation injuries in children and neonates. Individual studies involving neonates receiving intravenous therapy on intensive care units report incidence rates of 18-46%. Serious complications, such as necrosis and ulceration, develop in 2.4-4% of cases, which in the long term can lead to contractures, deformities, and loss of limb function secondary to unfavorable scar formation. There are no guidelines available to date on the management of pediatric extravasation injuries.

Methods: The present review article is based on a selective search of the literature in PubMed (for the period 1979 until June 2020) and our own clinical experience.

Results: There is a lack of randomized controlled studies on the management of pediatric extravasation injuries, so the level of evidence remains restricted to small comparative studies and case series. Conservative, pharmacological or surgical forms of treatment are used, depending on the volume and type of extravasated fluid as well as patient-specific factors. Firstly, an assessment is made as to whether the extravasated fluid is a substance with no primary toxic properties, a tissue irritating (irritant), or a necrosis-inducing (vesicant) substance. Skin and tissue should be examined for damage, skin color, swelling, capillary refill time, and pulse (distal to the injury). Depending on the substance and volume of the extravasated fluid and the degree of tissue damage, treatment options include conservative forms of treatment, administration of antidotes, hyaluronidase or vasodilators (such as phentolamine), the multiple puncture procedure, flushouts, and liposuction.

Conclusion: Without evidence for the superiority of any particular treatment, therapy remains an individual decision, carrying the risks associated with off-label use.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Extravasation of Diagnostic and Therapeutic Materials* / diagnosis
  • Extravasation of Diagnostic and Therapeutic Materials* / epidemiology
  • Extravasation of Diagnostic and Therapeutic Materials* / therapy
  • Extremities
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Skin
  • Skin Diseases*